Sotomayor defends her 'wise Latina woman' jibe

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The Independent US

Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama's first choice for the US Supreme Court, stoutly denied racial bias yesterday at her Senate confirmation hearing and said her oft-criticised remark about her Hispanic heritage affecting judicial decisions was a rhetorical device gone awry.

An attempted play on words "fell flat" in a speech in 2001, Ms Sotomayor said, referring to remarks in which she suggested that a "wise Latina woman" would usually reach a better conclusion than a white man.

"It was bad because it left an impression that I believed that life experiences commanded a result in a case, but that's clearly not what I do as a judge," she said.

Senator Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, sounded unconvinced. "As a judge who has taken this oath, I am very troubled that you would repeatedly over a decade or more make statements" like the one in 2001, he said. Republicans questioned Ms Sotomayor closely, sometimes challenging her answers, on the second day of hearings.

But Democrats command a strong majority in the Senate, and there is little doubt about her eventual confirmation as the first Hispanic to sit on the high court.